17 Years Since 9/11: Osama bin Laden’s Mother Opens up about her Son

Marisha Dolly Singh
The mother of slain Al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden, has broken her silence to speak about her son whose actions have changed the course of countries in the Middle East.

The mother of slain Al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden, has broken her silence to speak about her son whose actions have changed the course of Middle East.

In an interview with The Guardian newspaper, Alia Ghanem, Laden's mother speaks about the man who despite his actions that claimed thousands of lives remains her beloved first-born son.

Ghanem, in her mid-70s lives with her family in a mansion in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah. The family despite their links to bin Laden (who was at one time the world's number 1 terrorist) are one of the most influential families in the Kingdom.

They were allowed to speak to the British daily after Saudi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman agreed to the request. The move was seen as "allowing the Bin Laden family to tell their story" and also to help "demonstrate that an outcast – not an agent – was responsible for the terrorist act of 9/11".

Osama - The Son

Ghanem describes the Al Qaeda leader as a man who is, to her, still a beloved son who somehow lost his way. “He was a very good kid and he loved me so much.” Ghanem recalls her firstborn as a shy boy who was academically capable. She reminisces, “He was a very good child until he met some people who pretty much brainwashed him in his early 20s. You can call it a cult. They got money for their cause. I would always tell him to stay away from them, and he would never admit to me what he was doing, because he loved me so much.”

The 1980s

Osama bin Laden travelled to Afghanistan to fight the Soviet occupation. Ghanem recalls, that she knew he spent all his money on Afghanistan. She said bin Laden would sneak off under the guise of family business. She added she never suspected he might become a jihadist. “It never crossed my mind.” On realising what Osama had become she reveals her grief, “We were extremely upset. I did not want any of this to happen. Why would he throw it all away like that?”

“Everyone who met him in the early days respected him,” says Hassan bin Laden’s younger brother. “At the start, we were very proud of him. Even the Saudi government would treat him in a very noble, respectful way. And then came Osama the mujahid.”

September 11, 2001

Osama bin Laden’s half-brother Ahmad reveals what the family felt when they came to know of the attack on the Twin Towers in New York. “I was shocked, stunned,” he says now of the early reports from New York. “It was a very strange feeling. We knew from the beginning [that it was Osama], within the first 48 hours. From the youngest to the eldest, we all felt ashamed of him. We knew all of us were going to face horrible consequences. Our family abroad all came back to Saudi.”

Osama’s two half-brothers acknowledge that Ghanem like any mother is rarely an objective witness. “It has been 17 years now [since 9/11] and she remains in denial about Osama,” Ahmad says. “She loved him so much and refuses to blame him. Instead, she blames those around him. She only knows the good boy side, the side we all saw. She never got to know the jihadist side.”